There’s an Indian death euphemism I’ve been dwelling on since the last time I saw my grandmother: “To be no more.” But even after she dies, my grandmother’s brain will, in a way, live on, joining the thousands of Americans who donate each year. After undergoing an autopsy, her brain’s tissue will be stored and researched. It may travel to banks with specialized grants and niche experts. Someone will look at her under a microscope.
The more I thought about the trajectory of my grandmother’s life, the more the line between brain and grandmother blurred. What will come of her after life? That question led me to the place where her brain will end up.
I knew life with a baby would be radically different. I had been warned, and I had seen time and again how a baby could change a family dynamic. I prepared (as much as one can) for breastfeeding problems and colic and sleepless nights.
But what I didn’t expect were the changes in me. Not the physical changes; my body was doing strange and unusual things, but I knew they were temporary. What took me completely by surprise were the changes to me—my essential self, my personality.
You’re most likely to notice it in the abstract, if you notice it at all. The work of a good expediter is in the pacing of your dinner. It’s in the steadiness of the room. It’s in the sense that everyone in the restaurant is moving to a single, unbreakable rhythm.
The expediter sets that rhythm, managing the workflow of the kitchen like an air traffic controller. Though they may be unknown outside their restaurants, expediters are vital to smooth service. They fire dishes — signaling cooks exactly when to push ahead and finish a dish — and they keep time, continuously planning the next move.
“The Emissary” is as bleak a portrait of contemporary Japan as you could imagine. Tawada takes on the graying of the population and the trauma of the 2011 tsunami and the ensuing radiation leakage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Hovering above all this, as always, is Tawada’s interest in the issue of translation, but this time the gulf is between what Susan Sontag called the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick.